Flavor SummitNapa Valley, CA
2017 Flavor Summit Program Summary
The Greystone Flavor Summit brings together each spring a select group of top food and beverage executives, corporate and executive chefs, and other experts in American foodservice and hospitality to explore, discuss, and taste their way through a stimulating, critical set of flavor and related kitchen, dining, and hospitality management issues.
Our presenters thoroughly and candidly discussed the latest in food and beverage trends and business strategies to stand out in a crowded world. We covered savory and sweet menu ideas thanks to compelling demonstrations, sustainability when it comes to seafood, energy efficiency as a source of savings in kitchen equipment, how to create memorable and personalized experiences for guests, the latest restaurant design and plating trends, best practices in social media, what to consider when creating a culinary garden, and much more. From presentations and discussions to the many incredible meals and tastings, we got to think about ways to expand the flavors of our menus and the reach of our operations.
Meija Jacobs of IDEO set the tone when opening the conference inviting all attendees to be ready to tap into their creative confidence—a muscle we all have and need to exercise. Taking an experiential approach helps better identify what needs to be tweaked in a product or company, she explained, stressing the need to be thoughtful about how to use technology to create better experiences. Challenging perceptions was also the motivation behind a blindfolded wine and cheese tasting led by Ali Bouzari and Henry “Hoby” Wedler, who forced attendees to think beyond the visual and engage all of their senses when experiencing and describing what was in front of them. On the opposite end of the sensory spectrum, Jim Biber, chair of the James Beard Foundation’s design committee, put the focus on the visual as he reviewed the latest tendencies in restaurant design.
Personalization was a key topic on a number of fronts, from the technology developments highlighted by Danielle Gould of Food + Tech Connect, who looked at what investment trends predict about the future of food, to the modern luxury represented by personalized hospitality at a boutique inn and restaurant like Single Thread in Healdsburg, CA. Chef-owner Kyle Connaughton talked about the importance of being true to one’s uncompromising vision while maximizing flexibility for guests, and explained that tickets and all-inclusive pricing were the future of bookings. Business and travel writer Grant Martin spoke about revenue-based loyalty programs, which can also tap into users’ personal preferences, and how those programs might be adapted for the F&B world, where they only exist for fast food restaurants at the moment.
Angela Moore, vice president of digital content for the Food Network, took the audience on an overview of content that works from a social media perspective, along with strategies on how to use hashtags and when to post, for example (early in the morning and in the afternoon when people are thinking about dinner, when it comes to food on Instagram).
Other aspects of technology featured in the program included how operations can use energy-efficient equipment to enact significant savings, with Richard Young of PG&E Food Service Technology explaining how restaurants waste money by thinking about first costs only; the key to savings is to think about long-term efficiency, where a more expensive but more energy-efficient piece of equipment will save large amounts over its lifetime.
Chefs Tony Maws of Cambridge, Massachusetts and Andrea Reusing of Durham, North Carolina demonstrated dishes reflective of their restaurants while talking about some of their greater messages—functioning at the center of his community in the case of Maws and establishing a dialogue around seafood sustainability for Reusing. Daniel Skurknick of Le Coucou in New York explained how he goes about tweaking classic French desserts for contemporary tastes, reducing the sweetness and adding some acidity for lightness, for example, while demonstrating the versatility of desserts like chiboust and pavé, which can be prepared in large quantities. Alex Talbot of Ideas in Food recreated his donut shop, Curiosity Doughnuts, for the attendees, offering more than 25 types of donuts to taste and explaining how creative solutions allow him to reduce waste to zero.
Covering topics that included using watercress in a variety of dishes ranging from soup to “crazy” chicken salad with chef Ming Tsai and the latest global trends in dinnerware and plating with Antoinette Bruno, the conference’s top-level partners and the experts they gathered shared illuminating presentations that inspired all in attendance with new ideas for their menus—and how to best serve them.
Discussions around gardening and farming, thanks to Sara Gasbarra of Verdura Garden Design in Chicago and Matt Gunn, who runs the CIA’s student farm, allowed attendees to better understand how to set up a garden for their own operations; it is best to keep it simple at first, both presenters separately stressed, to understand what works for one’s specific needs. And it is important to consider how a garden or farm will fit into one’s budget, both in terms of costs to set up and potential savings on food costs.
On the beverage front, Michael Wolf provided an overview of equal-part cocktails and two possible legends for the Negroni’s name, Martin Cate of the award-winning Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco delighted the crowd with a thorough history of tiki bars and the secrets behind a real tiki cocktail, along with a demonstration, and Ali Bouzari and Henry “Hoby” Wedler took the audience on an unforgettable blindfolded wine and cheese pairing, asking them to re-evaluate how they use each of their senses when tasting.
We hope that our attendees enjoyed a memorable experience and took back concrete ideas to their operations, and look forward to welcoming another group of influential food, beverage, and hospitality executives to next year’s Greystone Flavor Summit, March 7-9, 2018.